Bobbie Jean Joiner pushed the paper vest from her shoulders and looked at her breasts in a full-length mirror.
The vest was stamped with outlines of pink ribbons, the international symbol of breast cancer. That was appropriate because the 56-year-old Joiner is a breast cancer survivor who had a double mastectomy in 2010. And for the first time in a long time, she liked what she saw when she looked in the mirror: an image of who she was before losing her breasts.
Joiner was moved to tears.
“Amazing,” she said. “It looks like I really got nipples, don’t it?”
On Monday, the East Milton resident completed another step in her arduous, seven-year battle with the disease. Now cancer-free, Joiner visited a Pensacola permanent makeup clinic to replace what the disease took from her. The medical tattoos recreated the nipples and areolas lost with the mastectomy.
Called areola repigmentation, the process restores the appearance of an areola using a digital machine that sends a colored pigment into the skin with a needle at a rate of 150 times a second.
The specific technique and coloring allow the areola and nipple to appear to be raised or 3-D, giving them a more natural appearance, according to Trinkette Parker, a micropigmentation specialist who has been performing areola repigmentation for 20 years.
A Pace resident and trained cosmetologist, Parker became interested in areola repigmentation after her sister, Piper, died of breast cancer at age 38 in 1996.
Since then, Parker said she has performed approximately 800 to 1,000 areola repigmentations, averaging about 40 to 50 a year.
“It’s that finishing touch to look complete,” Parker said. “To look like a woman again. This room has seen a lot of tears.”